Part 1 - Comfort Fabian
Part 2 - Samantha Kamras
Part 3 - Mark Oliver
"The phone rings.
The vibrations echoing around my flat.
I know who it is.
I don't need to look at it.
I let it ring".
Three people share a common thread: Ophelia.
She has met them at different stages of their lives.
But this isn't a story about Ophelia. Not really.
It is about them.
Everyday they wake up, get out of bed and go to work.
They go to class.
They meet their deadlines.
They have a social life and are able to laugh and show emotions.
They live and present as "normal", as put together - but that's not the whole truth.
They are high functioning and the truth is they all suffer from mental illness.
They have suffered for a while now.
They'll seem okay, but they're still sick.
Just beneath the surface.
All you need to do is look a little closer.
This is their story.
This short play is divided into three parts, each of which is delivered by a different actor, providing a glimpse into the tormented lives of people suffering the agony and anguish of mental ill-health.
"Stay calm. Stay focused. And try not to panic. And breathe."
Actor Comfort Fabian paces the floor, anxiously repeating these 4 sentences as we take our seats.
When the play begins, she starts counting down from 10.
Each new number seems to herald a reason for something she is planning.
In the the second part, Samantha Kamras describes a smartly-dressed young woman who is tormented by small, stupid things that set off immensely negative and painful feelings in her mind.
And in the third part, Mark Oliver's character resorts to alcohol to diminish his inner emotions so he doesn't feel "shitty" all the time.
The characters have no names, but they could easily be the person sitting next to you on the train, or working alongside you at the office.
For these people are not wholly dysfunctional, don't appear obviously ill or stand out in a way that might make us immediately wonder about their mental state.
But their inner turmoil and pain is real nonetheless, even if it's not so outwardly apparent to other people.
Though the characters depicted each have their own problems and issues, we start to see connections between them in the way they feel.
For example, small things like a look or an innocent remark by someone act like triggers to bring on acute feelings of hurt and pain, collapsing them into a state of black torment.
All of them apologise, almost as though they are sorry for not being 'normal'.
And they blame themselves for the way they are feeling and all want to end what they are feeling inside, but can't.
There's pain, fear, anguish and guilt which flood from their minds in a remorseless and uncontrollable torrent.
What we hear from these characters is, presumably, rarely spoken out loud to anyone else.
And when it is and they seek professional help, they seem to be largely ignored since they are intelligent, 'high functioning' individuals who don't command urgent and effective help.
That leaves them to face their "demons" on their own, and yet they feel powerless, and trapped.
Repetition figures prominently in Kieran Rogers well-written, poignant script, illustrating the fact that the way these people are feeling is a continual, unendingly repetitive process.
Ophelia isn't an easy watch because it's about human suffering.
Moreover, what the characters say doesn't always make obvious sense with thoughts tumbling and stumbling out of their minds in often illogical sequences - but that's just the point of course.
There's ample individuality and uniqueness in each character here with all the actors inhabiting their characters totally in uniformly powerful, moving and unsettling performances.
We've all felt hurt by the actions and words of other people, and most of us have been touched by anxiety, negative thoughts or depression at times.
And that leaves us wondering how we recognise when people are suffering something more than a fleeting, temporary phase and when the state of their mental health requires something more than mere tea and sympathy.
It's not easy to resolve, especially for the untrained, but what Ophelia ably and commendably does is to highlight a complex and distressing issue, and instigate urgent discussion about how society should be dealing with it.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Etcetera Theatre
Our show listing for Ophelia
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